Everyone’s heard of creamy New England Clam Chowder, but did you know it has a healthier cousin? Manhattan Clam Chowder, the “red clam chowder”, swaps a tomato broth for the cream and can even include a few more veggies. But they both have some things in common including tasty clams, chunky potatoes and savory bacon.
I first posted this recipe in 2014, to celebrate my second trip to Manhattan (New York City)—and to use up an abundance of tomatoes. That Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe was modified from one in the Milwaukee Journal and this time I added a couple more changes. Now I include chopped pancetta (I found this already minced at Trader Joe’s) or bacon, along with celery and yellow pepper for a flavor boost and to well, to “add a veggie!”
Step by Step Directions
Notes and Tips
I was focused on creating a dish that could go into regular rotation, so I went for the readily available canned clams rather than fresh. Canned clams come minced, chopped or whole. I used chopped clams to have some pieces of substance yet minimize the risk of hitting a rubbery piece. Not to mention the risk of grossing out my youngest (aka my picky daughter). Definitely a rec. if serving kids, but otherwise it’s a matter of personal preference.
It is possible to make the soup using fresh clams, but you do need to know how to work with them (not covered here). Many years ago, my father had an unpleasant surprise on a business trip to France when he ignored his waitress’s counsel and pried open a closed mussel to see a putrid liquid spill out.
Your tomato options are many here. Fresh, canned or frozen! Canned can go in right from the can, but for fresh, be sure to remove some of the seeds and surrounding liquid so there is less liquid. Ditto for frozen, but in that case, you can just squeeze out excess water after they are thawed (see below).
If you don’t know how to freeze tomatoes, it is super easy. Just core them by cutting off the stem scar and pop in a container or plastic bag–no peeling or blanching needed! To thaw place briefly in warm water; when thawed the skins will slip off and you can even squeeze out excess water, which I recommend for this soup. I do bagfuls every fall!
Manhattan Clam Chowder works as a tasty first course that can begin any dinner. It is especially nice before Friday night seafood meals.
But this Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe has all the components of an entrée soup and makes a lovely light supper. Consider serving with a salad like this Berry Salad for even more nutrition! Or add a nice crusty bread to please even the heartiest eaters!
Easy Manhattan Clam Chowder
- 4 ounces chopped bacon see note 1
- 1 Tablespoon butter if needed
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 ribs of celery finely chopped
- 1/2 cup diced carrot
- 2 cups chopped seeded tomatoes or a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 0-1 cup dry white wine see note 2
- ½ cup chopped yellow pepper
- 1 cup diced potato
- 2 6.5 ounce cans of clams including juice
- 4 Tablespoons of tomato paste optional
- Fresh parsley for garnish
- Chop pancetta or bacon, then fry on medium high in a large saucepan or stock pot. Remove from heat when pancetta starts to sizzle or bacon is crisp. If using bacon, remove all but 1-2 Tablespoons of fat from the pan. If using pancetta, add 1 Tablespoon butter.
- Place the pan back on medium low heat and add the chopped onion and celery. Cook until tender.
- Add the tomatoes (canned or fresh), thyme and carrots. Cook until tomatoes start to break down and carrots are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and yellow pepper. If sauce looks very thick, you can add some wine now, but remember that you are adding clam juice later. Continue cooking until everything is tender.
- Add clams and their juice. Add (additional) wine if needed to achieve desired thickness. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Bring back to a simmer, then serve.
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